Friday, October 7, 2016

Hiking to Escape

Emily and Richard came out on Saturday to join me for an 'escape room' experience that I'd won on the local radio, but first we were going for a hike, to blow away the cobwebs and enjoy some fresh air after our week of rain and storms. I though Little Devil's Stairs would be especially attractive after the rainfall we'd received that would mean plenty of gushing waterfalls down the ravine which we would hike up.
I'd been so excited to see the little waterfalls and riffs powering down over the rocks that I had completely forgotten about the very first part of the hike, a creek that was usually crossed easily by skipping over some stepping stones, but which today was running at a much higher level and considerably faster than usual. Even with my hiking poles it was pretty scary as I tried to cross the few tops of rocks that were poking out from the torrent but I only made a couple of steps and found I couldn't proceed any further. Walking up and down the riverbank didn't reveal any easier crossings either. A couple of girls and their dog managed to slowly haul themselves across the fallen tree but it was still a struggle and we all watched wistfully, knowing we wouldn't be attempting to follow them unless maybe a pack of zombies suddenly appeared behind us.
So instead we drove into the Shenandoah National Park and almost immediately came upon an elderly chap with a large backpack and a hopeful thumb thrust out in our direction. I stopped and he clambered in gratefully, wanting a ride down to the 19 mile marker where he would pick up the Appalachian Trail. He had hurt his ankle and with a lift down the road, would only have a mile to hike along the trail before he would find a shelter where he could rest until the following day, when he would have to hike 10 miles. This guy was in his early 70's so we were all impressed, especially when he told us he'd been hiking the trails since March and had started from Georgia with the intention of finishing near NYC by November. He was obviously making the best of his retirement and even told us that he'd bought and learned to ride his first motorbike at the age of 63.
 We stopped to enjoy a vista while he continued to rest his ankle in the car and then a few miles later we parked at the trail where we bid him goodbye and good luck on the rest of his adventure. I was happy to see he wasn't limping as I watch him disappear round the bend. We set off in the opposite direction down towards the head of the Little Devil's Stairs. It wasn't going to be the distance or the workout that he had hoped to get that morning but at least some exercise was better than none.
It was a pretty trail leading down and as we walked we often heard water cascading and chuckling down over rocks, along the side of the path and down the hill. I wasn't sure if Emily was photographing the water here or capturing a Pokemon but apparently it was regardless very engrossing.
The woods were pretty, a light mist weaving through the tree trunks with various fungi sprouting up from fallen tree trunks and poking through the leafy carpet. The air was incredibly damp from all the recent rain, making the rocks slippery. We did pass a poor lady looking very glum and heard from a couple of girls that someone had taken a bad tumble after slipping so it was likely her, poor thing. We were glad we had attempted the climb. We got back to the car and drove to Front Royal's PaveMint Taphouse where we downed a hasty snack and a beer before rushing on to Middletown, arriving just in time for our appointment at The Brass Key Tavern.
From their web site, "An escape room is a game in which players are locked inside of a room and must escape it within a certain time limit. According to Jason Shaffer, manager of Worlds Away, most escape rooms involve a theme or a story line.
"Our (theme) is called the Brass Key Tavern," Shaffer, 29, said. "The story line is that your group of two to six people have been asked to come in to the tavern for a sort of paranormal investigation. But, after you get in there, you find out that things are a little bit more sinister."
In order to escape the room, players will have to find clues and solve puzzles using elements within the room.
"It’s a unique event," he said. "There’s not one like it around the area. We wanted to do an event that would be appropriate for October. Of course, you can go to the Devil’s Den, which is an actual haunted house type of event. So we wanted something to be a little bit different, but still kind of seasonally appropriate"
The Brass Key Tavern event is taking place in a 3,300-square-foot building that Shaffer’s parents — Lisa and Terry — purchased at an auction in May 2014 for $75,000. Prior to their purchase, it had remained vacant for several years. According to Lisa Shaffer, it is one of the oldest buildings in the Shenandoah Valley, having been built around 1730.
The stone room the guests will be locked in for the majority of their session is the oldest section of the house, Shaffer said.
We were blindfolded and led into a small dark room, in which we would find a dim light and clues to get us into the next room and then find further clues to eventually gain our escape. We failed. We found plenty of clues but wasn't able to match them together, and we did say afterwards that a more chronological search would have been easier as this had seemed disjointed. But it had been fun, working up a keen appetite so we went down the road to Nana's for dinner.
 A delicious homemade Shepherd's Pie with soda bread. This was my first time here on a Sunday afternoon and the music and beer choices left a lot to be desired so I shall be saving my visits for Fridays, when I usually come, but the food, as always, was perfection.
 On the way back to Meadow House I took Emily and Richard to Backroom Brewery for a last beer, which we enjoyed while sitting outside watching the sun set over grassy fields. It had been an eventful day with plenty of laughs, as usual, and we were all ready to get home.
A few days later I looked up the Brass Key Tavern on Facebook and found our team photo with our score. We had the lowest results of all who had played so far. All I can say is that we're obviously better at enjoying a good pint of beer than finding our way out of a dark room,

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